Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (420)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

420. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent, if any, to which he continues to have contact with An Post with a view to ensuring the maintenance of the post office and services network and next day delivery throughout the country without exception; if alternative, complementary and or compatible services such as banking continue to be attracted by An Post with a view to ensuring its long term viability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10341/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Operational matters in relation to the post office network are a matter for the management and Board of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function.

As shareholder, however, I have a strong concern in relation to the ongoing commercial position of the Company and I regularly liaise with the Company in this regard.

An Post has many strengths and has the largest retail presence in the country. I have impressed on the Company the need to further exploit its unique position in this regard and have been supportive of its attempts to diversify its income streams and to win a wider range of commercial contracts offering higher margins.

I welcome the progress An Post has made towards diversification with its enhanced arrangement with AIB and its agreement with Aviva for the transfer of Aviva Ireland’s branch offices personal insurance business book to One Direct.

In the context of the public sector transformation agenda, I will continue to engage with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to consideration, as appropriate, of the post office network for transactional elements of the business of Government Departments and Agencies, and have stressed to my Government colleagues that the network is ideally configured for over the counter transactions.

While I have overall responsibility for the postal sector, the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Act 2011 charges the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as the postal regulator, with the promotion of the development of the postal sector and particularly the availability of the universal postal service, the promotion of the interests of users and the facilitation of the development of competition in the sector. ComReg is in regular contact with my Department.

According to the Act, An Post is statutorily required, as the designated universal service provider, to provide a universal postal service. The essential element of this obligation is the collection and delivery of mail to every address in the State on every working day.

The universal service obligation ensures by way of regulatory obligations that a minimum set of services is provided at an affordable price for the benefit of all users, irrespective of their geographical location. It is a fundamental principle of the regulatory framework for postal services and is an explicit requirement of the EU Postal Services Directive which has provided for the gradual and controlled opening of the postal services market to competition.